Our inner child is the strategies we developed at an earlier stage that are kept in the shadow of our awareness. When we bring this inner child into view, we start to see how we can limit ourselves from our best. By working on inner child issues we heal the wounds of our past and move forward into healthier and happier relationships.
What Is Our Inner Child?
There is no literal inner child inside of you but there is a metaphorical being that lives and impacts how you behave. For me, I think of the inner child as the programming we developed as children in order to survive in our family system. This is the time where we setup our beliefs about ourselves. Once those beliefs are created we tend to live from these beliefs.
In his article on the inner child, Dr. Stephen Diamond talks about the way our inner child controls us: “Adults are unwittingly being constantly influenced or covertly controlled by this unconscious inner child.” (Diamond, 2008).
This is how our inner child runs the show. When we have a belief about ourselves, such as, I’m incompetent, we continually dismiss our capacity to accomplish things in life. We limit our contribution to out jobs and families because we believe we can’t do it. This is not because of an actual limitation as an adult but because our younger self is running our lives.
In fact, these so-called grown-ups or adults are unwittingly being constantly influenced or covertly controlled by this unconscious inner child. For many, it is not an adult self directing their lives, but rather an emotionally wounded inner child inhabiting an adult body. A five-year-old running around in a forty-year-old frame (Diamond, 2008).
Setting Up A False Self
When children are not given the support they need they can get stunted at the development stage this happens. These kids are not able to make sense of the world in the way that adults do. They absolutize every happening. If a father abandons them they believe that all men will abandon them. If they are abused they believe they will always be abused. Children don’t have the cognitive capacity to see the nuances of what his happening to them.
In order to survive the child has to develop a false self. This false self is the strategies they create in order to live in less than nourishing environments. A child starts to believe that being themselves is not enough to get their needs met. This false self shows up in so many ways. For many people it is the amplification or deamplification of their vitality. They have to express in more extreme ways getting the attention of their care takers or they shut down and act like they don’t care. In both cases the natural charm, courage and liveliness of the child is lost.
In his book, Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child, John Bradshaw makes this clear:
The greatest wound a child can receive is the rejection of his authentic self. When a parent cannot affirm his child’s feelings, needs, and desires, he rejects that child’s authentic self. Then, a false self must be set up (Bradshaw, 2015).
Bringing The Inner Child Into Awareness
When we bring our inner child into view we start to acknowledge the conditioning we underwent in our early years. We begin to accept the wounds of what happened when we were younger. This allows us to start to take control of our lives from this conditioning.
Being in present awareness of our inner child can help us to move out of the habitual patterns that run our lives. For example, if a core belief is that I am unworthy, we can engage our inner child when we start to feel this deep sense of unworthiness. We notice our deflection of being nourished by someone else and instead we contact our younger self and allow ourselves to accept the compliment.
Bringing Your Inner Child Out Of The Shadows
In his book, Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark: Breaking Free from the Hidden Forces That Drive You, Robert Augustus Masters speaks to the need to bring our younger self out of the shadow and into our awareness:
The aspects of such conditioning that are unresolved or hidden are part of our shadow, so working in any depth with our inner child includes, to whatever degree, working with our shadow elements. And shadow work has to include working with our inner child; after all, childhood is when most of our conditioning was originally implanted. Furthermore, sometimes our inner child itself is kept in our shadow, however partially (Masters, 2018).
When we do the work to bring awareness to these younger parts of ourselves we increase our ability to overcome the behaviors that hurt our relationships. We start to build a relationship to this part of ourselves. Just like a good parent would our adult self starts to parent our young self. We can set boundaries and limits while letting the child in us know that our adult self is now in charge.
We need to open our heart to the wounded child within us that’s at the heart of most of our resistance (Masters, 2018).
How This Shows Up In My Life
I am lucky to have grown up in a family system that was relatively healthy. I do have certain conditioning that is still a part of who I am. My inner child is constantly wanting to please. When I don’t get this I feel like a failure. In my relationship with my wife this sense of being a failure shows up quite often. When I am able to feel this arise and soothe my inner child and let it know that I am okay I bring my nervous system back into a more regulated space.
Developing a relationship with my younger self has allowed me to really take responsibility for my childhood conditioning. I don’t see others as the cause of my distress. This has been instrumental in helping me maintain healthy relationships with the people I love.
If you need help building a relationship with your inner child schedule a free 30 minute consult.
Wishing You The Day You Need To Have!
Diamond, Stephen A. (2008, June) Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy : The Inner Child. Psychology Today.
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